Кафе “Govinda” / Cafe Govinda
Downtown location: ул. Фурье, 4;
second location: 2-я Железнодорожная ул., 66
(остановка “Чайка”, в здании Нерпинария, 3 этаж)
Open 11 am to 8 pm
Meals from $5-7
The most unexpected aspect of my time in Irkutsk so far has been the discovery of an entirely vegetarian restaurant called Govinda. Govinda is a relatively new establishment, having opened up only two years ago, but already has two cafes, one on each bank of the city. The food served at Govinda is a Russian take on Indian cuisine, and is very creative and flavorful. It’s a cafeteria-style cafe, where you grab a tray and order dishes from a buffet. They serve their own version of samosas, casseroles, soy proteins, vegetable cutlets, and several chutneys with rice. Plus, they have a wide variety of interesting desserts. The seating area is really lovely; they have one low table on a raised platform where you sit on the ground with no shoes on to eat, but the rest of the tables are ordinary chair-seating. The decor is very nice and it feels as though the owners put a lot of work into the atmosphere of the cafe, as well as the menu.
I first ate at Govinda with a group of six foreigners, all very interested in seeing what a vegetarian restaurant in Russia would be like. The woman serving us was extremely patient in explaining to our motley group what the different dishes were, since they were almost entirely unfamiliar to us. Everything we ate was delicious, and everyone’s meal was under 250 rubles, including drinks and desserts and two, sometimes three dishes. One of the favorites here is a stuffed pepper filled with cheese, rice, and vegetables, which we order each time we come here. A plate of rice with one of the chutneys costs 50 rubles (about $1.60), samosas cost 40 rubles each, and the stuffed peppers cost 60 rubles each. Different kinds of juice range from 15-25 rubles and there are a variety of desserts from 30 rubles.
If you’re tired of the average Russian fast-food bliny, or just looking to try something really new and different, Govinda is a delicious and healthy choice for finding new sources of protein, and interesting new spice and flavor combinations.
They also have a page on Vkontakte, with tantalizing pictures of some of their food offerings.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Govinda could be a possibility. The two locations, low prices, and tasty, vegi-friendly foods all make this a place that all students can enjoy without breaking the pocket book. However, the locations are small and arriving with 20 students would probably fill the place all at once. If you’ll be coming with more than 10 at a time, you’ll want to call ahead and see what arrangements can be made.